Safdar Hashmi was born to Haneef Hashmi and Qamar Azad on 12 April 1954 in Delhi. He spent his childhood in Aligarh and finished his schooling in Delhi. He did his M.A. in English literature from Delhi University. After short stints of teaching in the universities of Garhwal, Kashmir and Delhi he worked in the Press Institute of India and then joined as the Press Information Officer of the Govt. of West Bengal in Delhi. In 1984 he gave up his job to work full time as a political cultural activist.
Safdar, a founder member of Janam, was a brilliant theoretician and practitioner of political theatre, especially street theatre. A versatile personality, he was a playwright, a lyricist, a theatre director, a designer and an organizer. He also wrote for children.
His film scripts were much acclaimed. He wrote on various aspects of culture and related issues in journals and newspapers.
Safdar was a member of the C.P.I. (M). His creativity and ideology were inseparable.
In recognition of his contribution to the street theatre movement and to the growth of a democratic culture, the Calcutta University in 1989 conferred on Safdar the degree of D.Litt. posthumously.
On January 2, 1989, the convenor of Janam, Safdar Hashmi, died in a New Delhi hospital following a murderous attack on Janam activists the previous day by anti-social elements patronized by the ruling vested interests. Janam was performing the street play Halla Bol in Jhandapur, Sahibabad, in support of the workers’ demands led by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). A worker, Ram Bahadur, a young migrant from Nepal, was also killed in this attack.
People from all walks of life – workers, political activists, artists and intellectuals – came together spontaneously in a massive, unprecedented protest against this brutal murder. Today, Safdar’s name has become synonymous with street theatre and the progressive cultural movement in India.